On the advice of Newtown Jets veteran and good friend Kurt Kara, a contractless Jaline Graham strolled down to a pre-season sweat session as a means to keep fit.
Graham’s Rugby League future was uncertain after parting ways with the Bulldogs at the end of an explosive 2015 season – and despite a particular two-try finals performance against the Warriors that gained media attention.
Just a couple of sessions were enough to impress Jets coach Greg Matterson, with Graham subsequently offered a deal for the 2016 season.
“After the end of [last] season I was just trying to keep fit and do my own training,” Graham, 22, tells NSWRL.com.au.
“Kurt Kara got me here [when] we were playing [Rugby] Sevens together. A couple of the boys were running around just to keep fit in the off season, and from there on I had nothing to do so I asked, ‘can I come down [to training]?’”
“He asked the coach, and ‘Matto’ (Matterson) was good to have me on board. I did a couple of training sessions with him, and from there I ended up signing a deal, so I was happy about that.”
The Jets have a new-look NSW Cup squad for 2016, with arguably the most significant departure being gun halfback Todd Murphy, who returned to Queensland.
Despite training in the halves, Graham does not have his eyes locked on the vacant no.7 jersey.
“I just want to play anywhere, play consistent footy, try to cement a spot and have a solid season with the boys at Newtown, and hopefully try to get back into full-time training,” Graham says.
“It’s been a good pre-season, it’s a different kind of structure to what I’m used to, but it’s been awesome.”
A step towards cementing that spot starts this Saturday at 4pm, with the Jets hosting the North Sydney Bears at Henson Park in a trial match.
“I’ve been training at halfback, so I’ll probably be playing there in the halves [this weekend],” Graham says.
“It should be good, I’ve got a couple of [friends] there as well from North Sydney.”
Graham attracted the spotlight in last year’s NSW Cup finals series when he scored two incredible solo tries from inside his own half.
The speed, skill and footwork shown drew comparisons to New Zealand superstar Shaun Johnson, something that shocked Graham.
“[Johnson] is one of my idols, it’s a humbling experience and I look up to players like that,” Graham says.
“To be noted as a player like that is pretty humbling.”
Despite being one of the many new faces at the club, Graham has high hopes for the season ahead.
“I don’t know who’s coming down from the Sharks yet, but we’ve got a whole new squad here at the part-time training at Newtown, so it should be good.”